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The Future House of God


The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.



In days to come

the mountain of the L ord’s house

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be raised above the hills;

all the nations shall stream to it.


Many peoples shall come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the L ord,

to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the L ord from Jerusalem.


He shall judge between the nations,

and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war any more.


Judgment Pronounced on Arrogance


O house of Jacob,

come, let us walk

in the light of the L ord!


For you have forsaken the ways of your people,

O house of Jacob.

Indeed they are full of diviners from the east

and of soothsayers like the Philistines,

and they clasp hands with foreigners.


Their land is filled with silver and gold,

and there is no end to their treasures;

their land is filled with horses,

and there is no end to their chariots.


Their land is filled with idols;

they bow down to the work of their hands,

to what their own fingers have made.


And so people are humbled,

and everyone is brought low—

do not forgive them!


Enter into the rock,

and hide in the dust

from the terror of the L ord,

and from the glory of his majesty.


The haughty eyes of people shall be brought low,

and the pride of everyone shall be humbled;

and the L ord alone will be exalted on that day.


For the L ord of hosts has a day

against all that is proud and lofty,

against all that is lifted up and high;


against all the cedars of Lebanon,

lofty and lifted up;

and against all the oaks of Bashan;


against all the high mountains,

and against all the lofty hills;


against every high tower,

and against every fortified wall;


against all the ships of Tarshish,

and against all the beautiful craft.


The haughtiness of people shall be humbled,

and the pride of everyone shall be brought low;

and the L ord alone will be exalted on that day.


The idols shall utterly pass away.


Enter the caves of the rocks

and the holes of the ground,

from the terror of the L ord,

and from the glory of his majesty,

when he rises to terrify the earth.


On that day people will throw away

to the moles and to the bats

their idols of silver and their idols of gold,

which they made for themselves to worship,


to enter the caverns of the rocks

and the clefts in the crags,

from the terror of the L ord,

and from the glory of his majesty,

when he rises to terrify the earth.


Turn away from mortals,

who have only breath in their nostrils,

for of what account are they?

12. For the day of the LORD of hosts will be on every one that is proud and lofty In this verse he confirms the same thing more fully and from the vehement manner in which he heaps up words, we may easily infer how bold was the wickedness which at that time abounded. But we shall not wonder that he labors so hard to subdue the arrogance of men, if we consider how difficult it is to bend the stubbornness of those who, relying on their wealth, are afraid of nothing, and who suppose that the design of their elevated rank is, that whatever they do shall pass unpunished. For even at the present day we experience how sensitive and passionate those men are who make arrogant claims for themselves, and how obstinately they reject all admonitions. And this is also the reason why the Prophet uses sharp language against theme instead of threatening vengeance, in general terms, against the whole nation.

Yet it is not against the princes alone, whose high rank raised them far above other men, that his invectives are launched; for not only they, but even persons of the lowest rank, often swell with pride; and, as the common proverb runs, “Every man carries within him the heart of a king.” In like manner, we find that even the basest persons, if you do but prick them with a pill, vomit out the poison of intolerable arrogance. Since, therefore, this vice was so widely spread, Isaiah includes both the highest and the lowest of the people, declaring that in proportion to the forbearance which God had exercised toward them is the severity of the impending judgment; for, in consequence of their abundance, their hearts had swollen to fierceness.

Moreover, though the letter ל, (lamed,) 4545     ליהוה The natural rendering of “Quoniam dies Iehovae exercituum super omnem superbum et exelsum erit“ appears to be what I have given above, for the day of the Lord of hosts will be on every one that is proud and lofty. But if Jehovae be in the dative, and not in the genitive case, the ambiguity might have been partly removed by some such collocation as the following: — Quoniam Jehovae exercituum erit dies, which might have meant, For to the Lord of hosts there will be a day, or, the Lord of hosts will have a day; and such an emphatic meaning of the phrase must have been intended by our author. — Ed which is the sign of the dative case, be sometimes superfluous, yet in this passage it retains its force; for it would appear that Isaiah appoints a fixed day, as usually happens in judicial trials. Accordingly, I interpret it to mean that God himself hath previously appointed a day on which proud men must be summoned to the judgment-seat of God, to receive a sentence of condemnation.

We may also learn from these words that God avows himself to be the enemy of all the proud. This appointing of a day is therefore to the same effect as if God declared that he cannot endure men wickedly to indulge in pride, and that they who unduly exalt themselves cannot escape being crushed by his hand. And if our minds were sincerely convinced of this, who would not abhor pride, which provokes the anger of God against us? If any person choose rather to interpret (superbum et elatum) proud and lofty as in the neuter gender, meaning that which is proud and lofty, we must understand them to refer to the fortresses, bulwarks, and fortifications; but the rules of grammar do not admit of their being applied in any other way than to persons.

13. Upon all the cedars of Lebanon The allegory which is here introduced, about the trees of Lebanon and the lofty mountains, instead of obscuring, sheds light on the subject; for however high may be the wishes or endeavors of a mortal man, yet he will never be able to reach the height of the mountains and the lofty trees, which it is as easy for God to throw down as for a breath of wind to scatter the fallen leaves. Accordingly, in what may be called a painting, Isaiah shows to proud men how idle and foolish they are in believing that their elevation will be their defense. There is also an implied exaggeration, which must have contributed to heighten the terror. It cannot be supposed that God is actually angry with the mountains and trees, or that, having changed his purpose, he throws down what he has built up; but in the harmless creatures Isaiah holds out to view the judgment of God, in order more fully to convince wicked and unprincipled men that their presumption will not pass unpunished. Thus we see the reason why he mixes up the metaphors of cedars, oaks, and mountains

15. And upon every lofty tower What he adds about towers and walls is not figurative or metaphorical. We know how men, when they think that they are well defended, congratulate themselves that they no longer need the assistance of God. Accordingly, under the name of towers and walls Isaiah mentions the object of false confidence; for if any place seem to be impregnable, there do irreligious men build their nest, that they may look down from it on heaven and earth; for they imagine that they are placed beyond all the uncertainties of fortune. Isaiah therefore threatens that, when it shall please God to humble men, he will throw down all the defenses on which they place a false confidence. And although those things are not in themselves evil, yet because they receive too large a share of our attention, it is with great propriety that Isaiah sharpens his pen against them.

To the same purpose is what he says about horses and chariots; for, as we are told by Micah, because men have improperly relied on earthly riches, they must be altogether deprived of them, that they may owe this preservation entirely to the hand of God. (Micah 5:10.) A little before, he had reproved them for the abundance of their horses (verse 7); he now addresses them about the judgment of God, and warns them that, as the only possible way of gaining the favor of God, he must take from the Jews all their horsemen, that they may no longer place sinful reliance on earthly support.

16. And upon all ships of Tarshish Tarshish was unquestionably the Hebrew name for Cilicia; and as the Jews had much traffic with that nation, Scripture frequently mentions the ships of Tarshish, which are so called, because they sailed on that sea. Navigation cannot, indeed, be condemned on its own account; for, by importing and exporting articles of merchandise, it is of great advantage to mankind. Nor can any fault be found with this mode of intercourse between nations; for it is the will of God that the whole human race should be joined together by, mutual acts of kindness. But as it most frequently happens that abundance leads to pride and cruelty, Isaiah reproves this kind of merchandise, which was the chief source of the wealth of the land. Besides, in that merchandise which is carried on with distant and foreign nations, there is often a large amount of tricks and dishonesty, and no limit set to the desire of gain. First, then, Isaiah means that the Jews will be deprived of riches, that they may learn to submit to God. Secondly, he describes covetousness and unlawful gains by means of a sign, as if one were to express murder by holding out a bloody sword.

And upon elegant pictures This second part of the verse shows still more clearly that the Prophet condemns navigation, which had brought many corruptions into the land. It is too frequent and common that riches are followed by luxury, effeminacy, and a superfluity of pleasures, which we commonly see in wealthy countries and commercial cities; for those who trade by sea in distant countries are not satisfied with the commodities obtained at home, but carry away new luxuries which were formerly unknown. Since, therefore, wealth is usually the mother of superfluity, the Prophet here mentions costly furniture, as if he had said that the Jews, by adorning their houses at great expense, draw down upon themselves the judgment of God; for he employs the word pictures, by a well-known figure of speech, to denote rich tapestry, and the productions of Phrygia, and vessels framed with consummate skill

It is certain that the manners of men are corrupted, when they eagerly pursue, in every direction, superfluous enjoyments And we see how destruction was brought on the Roman Empire by delicacies of this nature; for before they traveled into Greece, the greatest moderation prevailed among them; and no sooner had Asia been vanquished than they began to grow soft and effeminate; and when their eyes were dazzled by pictures, furniture, precious stones, and tapestry and their nostrils regaled by ointments and perfumes, all their senses were immediately overpowered, and, by imitating the luxury of the East as a higher form of civilization, they began gradually to indulge in every kind of debauchery.

17. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down The Prophet declares that he had his eye on men, when he described the various kinds of loftiness; for God is not displeased saith the steep mountains or tall cedars, which he created, but informs us that the whole evil lies in men, who vainly trust to what is high and lofty. It may be objected, that it frequently happens that wicked men are not rendered more humble by chastisement, but, on the contrary, become more fierce and obstinate, as is evident from the case of Pharaohs whose hardness of heart no plagues could subdue, (Exodus 8:15, and 9:34;) and consequently that what the Prophet here threatens does not always take place. I reply, he does not describe the effect of chastisement, as if God bent rebellious men to obey hills; but the meaning of this passage is, that, although the hearts of the reprobate be not changed, yet the Lord will not cease to inflict punishment upon them, till their haughtiness and presumption are brought low. For, trusting to their wealth and fortifications, they congratulate themselves, as we have said, on their safety, and do not fear God. But whatever may be the nature of their defenses, the Lord will easily subdue and lay them low, and that not only by one or another chastisement, but by chastisements so numerous and so severe, that they will at length be beaten down and subdued, will cease to rise up against him, and will acknowledge that they gain nothing by their insolence and presumption. The next clause, and the LORD alone shall be exalted, has been already explained.

18 And the idols he will utterly abolish As he had formerly, in his reproof, joined idolatry with luxury and covetousness, and other views; so he now joins them in the threatening of punishment.

19. And they shall enter into the holes of the rocks He had formerly used other words when addressing them in the second person, Enter into the rock, (verse 10,) that he might inflict a severer stroke on their minds. But now he declares what they will do, and says that they must enter; and hence it is evident that the former statement was not an exhortation, but a severe denunciation of the wrath of God, in order to terrify wicked and obstinate men, who despise all warnings and all threatenings.

From the presence of the terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of his majesty What he adds about the terror of God must be understood to mean that terror which was thrown into them by the Chaldeans and Assyrians, whose hand he called a little before, and now also calls, the glory of God for God employed their agency to chastise his people. Although they were wicked and treacherous, yet they promoted the glory of God; for even the devil himself contributes in some way to the glory of God, though contrary to his wish. Thus he speaks of the Assyrians and Chaldeans, because in the punishments which the Lord will inflict on the Jews by their agency we may behold his glory

The same thing is confirmed by the word Arise, which means to go before the judgment-seat. In the phrase which immediately follows, לערץ הארף, (laarotz haaretz,) to shake terribly the earth, there is an elegant allusion or play on words, which can hardly be conveyed in any other language. 4646     The “play on words,” which turns entirely on the sound of the Hebrew noun and verb, cannot be expressed in a translation. Our author has illustrated it by ad terram terrendam, which again may be fully imitated by this alliteration, “to terrify the terrestrial globe.” — Ed. He says that the Lord ariseth, because he appears to sleep so long as he delays his judgments. But he ariseth, when he comes forth as a judge to inflict punishments on the wicked; so as to make it evident to men that nothing escapes the knowledge, or is hidden from the eyes, of Him who permits no crime to pass unpunished.

20. In that day a man will cast away his idols Idolaters are amazingly delighted with their own superstitions and ungodly worship; for although they abound in enormities and crimes, still they betake themselves to this refuge, that they imagine that their worship appeases God. Just as in the present day, if we should represent the crimes and lawless passions of every kind which abound among the papists, they certainly will not be able to deny our statements, but will flatter themselves on this ground, that they have a plausible form of worship, and will believe that this vail covers all their crimes. Accordingly, the Prophet deprives idolaters of this cloak, and threatens that they will no longer be able to conceal their pollution; for the Lord will compel them to throw away their idols, that they may acknowledge that they had no good reason for placing their hope and confidence in them.

In short, they will be ashamed of their foolishness; for in prosperity they think that they enjoy the favor of God, as if he showed that he takes delight in their worship; and they cannot be convinced to the contrary, until God actually make evident how greatly he abhors them. It is only when they are brought into adversity that they begin to acknowledge their wickedness, as Hosea strikingly illustrates by comparing them to whores, who do not acknowledge their wickedness so long as they make gain, and live in splendor, but who, when they are deprived of those enjoyments, and forsaken by their lovers, begin to think of their wretchedness and disgrace, and enter into the way of repentance, of which they had never thought while they enjoyed luxury. (Hosea 2:5.) The same thing almost always happens with idolaters, who are not ashamed of their wickedness, so as to cast away their idols, until they have been visited by very sore distress, and made almost to think that they are ruined.

Which they made; that is, which were made for them by the agency of workmen. Nor was this all unnecessary addition; for he means that pretended gods are not entitled to adoration: and what sort of gods can they be that have been made by men, seeing that God exists from himself, and never had a beginning? It is therefore highly foolish, and contrary to reason, that men should worship the work of their own hands. So then by this expression, he aggravates their criminality, that idols, though they are composed of gold or silver, or some other perishable material, and have been manufactured by men, are yet worshipped instead of God; and at the same time he states the reason why they are displeasing to God: it is, because they are worshipped. On what pretense will the papists now excuse their ungodliness? for they cannot deny that they render adoration to images; and wherever such worship is performed, there ungodliness is clearly proved.

Into the holes of the moles and of the bats By the holes of the moles he means any filthy places in which they are disgracefully concealed.

21. And they shall enter into the clefts of the rocks This repetition is not superfluous, though Isaiah again employs the same words which he had lately used; for what is so difficult as to impress on the minds of men sincere fear of God? Nor is it only in hypocrites that we perceive this, but in ourselves, if we bestow careful attention; for how many things are presented to us by which our minds ought to be deeply affected, and yet we are scarcely moved! More especially, it was necessary that this judgment of God should be earnestly placed before hypocrites, who took delight in wickedness. But now he points out the severity of God’s vengeance by this consideration, that the ungodly choose rather to be swallowed up by the deepest gulfs than to come under the eye of God. This, too, is the passage from which Christ borrowed the threatening which he pronounces on the Jews,

In that day shall they say to the mountains cover us; and to the hills, Hide us. (Luke 23:30.)

22 Cease therefore from man These words are clearly connected with what goes before, and have been improperly separated from them by some interpreters. For Isaiah, after having addressed the ungodly in threatenings concerning the judgment of God, exhorts them to refrain from deluding themselves by groundless confidence; as if he had said, “I see that you are blinded and intoxicated by false hope, so that no argument can prevail with you; and this you do, because you claim too much for yourselves. But man is nothing; and you have to do with God, who can reduce the whole world to nothing by a single act of his will.”

Whose breath is in his nostrils The former part of the verse is explained in various ways; for some interpret it as referring to Christ, and view the word רוח, (ruach,) which we render breath, as denoting violence, by a comparison which is frequently used in other parts of Scripture; 4747     In 1 Kings 19:11 רוח (ruach) signifies wind, which the accompanying epithets show to have been strong and violent. — Ed and the nostril as denoting anger, because the outward sign of anger is in the nostrils. They bring out the meaning in this manner: “Beware of provoking the anger of Christ.” 4848     Instead of rendering, Cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, they would render, Cease from the man who is terrible in his wrath. — Ed. But if we examine the passage closely, that exposition will be found to be at variance with the meaning of the words.

Others understand it as relating to men in general, but explain it by that saving, Fear not them who kill the body. (Matthew 10:28.) But neither can this interpretation be admitted, which does not agree either with the time or the occasion, since there was no reason for dissuading them from the fear of men. But, as I have already said, the context will quickly remove all doubt; for the commencement of the following chapter clearly explains and confirms what is here stated; and he who made this division has improperly separated those things which ought to have been joined together. For the Prophet is about to add, “The Lord will take from you those things which so highly elevate your minds, and put you in such high spirits. Your confidence is foolish and groundless. “Such is the connection of what he now says, “Cease therefore from man, whose breath is in his nostrils.”

But first we must see what is meant by breath in the nostril. It denotes human weakness, or, that the life of man is like a breath, which immediately vanishes away. And as David says,

“If the Lord take away the breath, man returns to the dust.”
(Psalm 104:29.)


“His breath will go out, and he will return to his earth.”
(Psalm 146:4.)

And again:

“They are flesh, a breath that passeth away and cometh not again.” (Psalm 78:39.)

Since, therefore, nothing is more weak or frail than our life, what means that confidence, as if our strength were deeply rooted? We ought therefore to cease from man; that is, we ought to lay aside groundless confidence; because man has his breath in his nostril, for when his breath goes out, he is immediately dissolved like water. We speak here of the breath of life, for nothing is more frail.

Besides, when we are forbidden to place confidence in men, let us begin with ourselves; that is, let us not in any respect trust to our own wisdom or industry. Secondly, let us not depend on the aid of man, or on any creature; but let us place our whole confidence in the Lord. Cursed. says Jeremiah, is he who trusteth in man, and who placeth his strength and his aid in flesh, that is, in outward resources. (Jeremiah 17:5.)

For wherein is he to be accounted of? This is the true method of repressing haughtiness. Nothing is left to men on which they ought to congratulate themselves; for the meaning is as if the Prophet had said that the whole glory of the flesh is of no value. It ought also to be observed that this is spoken comparatively, in order to inform us, that if there be in us anything excellent, it is not our own, but is held by us at the will of another. We know that God has adorned the human race with gifts which ought not to be despised. We know, also, that some excel others; but as the greater part of men neglect God, and flatter themselves beyond measure; and as irreligious men go so far as to think that they are more than gods, Isaiah wisely separates men from God, which the Holy Spirit also does in many other parts of Scripture: for when we look at them in themselves, we perceive more fully the frail, and fading, and transitory nature of their condition. Accordingly, as soon as men begin to make the smallest claim for themselves, they ought to have an opportunity of perceiving their vanity, that they may acknowledge themselves to be nothing. This single expression throws down the pompous applauses of free-will and merits, by which papists extol themselves in opposition to the grace of God. That intoxicated self-love, in which irreligious men indulge, is also shaken off. Lastly, we are brought back to God, the Author of every blessing, that we may not suppose that anything excellent is to be found but in hilly for he has not received what is due to hilly until the world has been stripped of all wisdom, and strength, and righteousness, and, in a word, of all praise.

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